Gov. Rick Scott says he is “absolutely heartbroken” after hearing of the deaths of six patients at a Broward County nursing home.
“Protecting the lives of Floridians is my top priority and that’s why we have worked all week to help Floridians prepare and respond to Hurricane Irma,” Scott said in a statement sent out by his office Wednesday afternoon. “I am going to aggressively demand answers on how this tragic event took place.”
Three people died at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after the facility lost its air conditioning when Hurricane Irma knocked out power to the area. Three of the patients died at the facility, the others died while being treated at a nearby hospital.
Three of the patients who have been identified were in their 70’s.
“Although the details of these reported deaths are still under investigation, this situation is unfathomable,” Scott said. “Every facility that is charged with caring for patients must take every action and precaution to keep their patients safe – especially patients that are in poor health.”
While the official cause of death was not immediately known, Hollywood police announced they have launched a criminal investigation.
The governor has directed the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families to work with local law enforcement to investigate the deaths.
Scott says “if anyone wasn’t acting in the best interests of their patients, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports 115 patients at the facility were evacuated and local officials said some of those patients were in respiratory distress.
It’s not known how long the facility had been without power.
Scott is also asking first responders to immediately check in with the healthcare facilities in their areas to ensure the safety of their residents and to make sure nursing homes and assisted living facilities are able to care for their residents.
In a news release, the Governor’s Office says Department of Health officials have been in contact with Larkin Community Hospital Behavioral Health Services management and the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills over the past three days. Administrators were advised to call 911 if they felt the health or safety of patients was at risk. Tuesday afternoon, the center told state officials that they had power and access to fans and spot coolers.
The release says if any facility believes their patients are at risk they “must call 911 and immediately work to get those in their care to safety.”